Jacqui thought her boss “awkward” but didn’t realize he harbored a sinister side until she handed in her notice. Stalking can devastate the victim’s, leaving them fearful, paranoid, and anxiety-ridden. At the same time, the road to freedom is not easy under the current legal system. For Melbourne’s Jacqui Sanders*, who was stalked in person, her experience with the police was more straightforward than it tends to be with online stalking situations. Ms. Sanders, 49, worked as a temp when something about her boss didn’t sit right. “He was a little awkward,” she says. “At times, he would have me and then leave – but in retrospect, I think he was perhaps watching me from other rooms.” When she left the role, her former boss insisted on farewell coffee and cake and spent the following hour convincing her to join him for a few drinks.
She said no and left the awkward encounter. But before long, she began receiving, repeatedly asking her to meet him and telling her how important their friendship was to him. “It was easy to delete messages and ignore them. was not flourishing then, so it was much easier to hide,” says Ms. Sanders. “At my new role, after a few months, flowers arrived. They were from him, and I felt ill.” Weeks later, he showed up again with a dress he’d purchased for Ms. Sanders while on holiday with his children. “I felt uncomfortable and unsafe. He knew where I worked and was so brave with the gift and visiting my workplace, despite no response from me,” she says.
Ms. Sanders called the police and, due to the straightforward nature of the stalking and unmistakable evidence, approached the offender and stopped the stalking. These days – thanks to social media – even the definition of stalking has become more complicated, says criminal defense lawyer Jahan Kalantar. “Changes in technology have allowed people to , and unfortunately, some stalkers have used this shift to harass, intimidate, and stalk individuals,” he says. “While some behaviors form the basis for stalking, sometimes it is behavior in a context that causes a person to feel a that constitutes stalking.
“In a legal context, we rely upon several subjective and objective factors when considering whether something really can be considered stalking.” In a separate case, Laura McConnell also experienced the damaging effects of stalking after she garnered the courage to leave a controlling Christian group, believing it would start a new life, free from the shackles that held her during her. But five years after speaking out against the controlling and inappropriate behavior taking place within the group, she began receiving ominous . It started an 11-year stalking experience at the hands of someone she knew.
“It started as a barrage of abusive and manipulative text messages, threatening me for speaking up,” says Ms. McConnell, 40. “Then suicide threats and further abusiveme to kill me, that no one cared about me or loved me. “There were Facebook messages, Instagram messages, every platform she could find me on – she’d message.” When Ms. McConnell blocked the harassment accounts, her stalker created new accounts. “There were constant, long rambling emails from various accounts.” Ms. McConnell replied a couple of , then continued to ignore and block, but the abuse continued.
In 2010, when the stalking first began, Ms. McConnell went to the police but was told it was a personal matter. “They told me to go home and sort it out myself.” Fast forward to 2015, and the police response was vastly different. “I went back to the police in 2015 when the abuse escalated, and they were very good. “They told me it was abusive behavior, that I could take out an AVO. They explained the process and the implications.” While there have been significant improvements in theaccusations of stalking, there is still a long way to go, with the onus of proof resting on the accuser. “Police can deal with a variety of challenges when dealing with accusations of stalking,” says Mr. Kalantar.
“Sometimes there will be insufficient evidence or evidence of a conflicting nature (such as two versions that are quite distinct). “Police may also be unable to trace the origins of messages sent via social media or encrypted services.” There is also the risk of failed convictions, which may risk further escalating the behavior – a fact Ms. McConnell took seriously when deciding on a course of action. “Ultimately, I decided not to pursue an AVO because I was concerned that impacting her income/business was going to inflame the situation more – and she would . “I to write a letter giving a warning. It hasn’t stopped her sporadic abusive behavior but reduced it.”
If a person is being stalked, there are several steps they can take, the most important being to report the situation to the police as soon as they feel uncomfortable. “My advice is that rather than having an external metric, you should trust your instincts and take action as soon as you feel something is list of emails, or just keeping a journal of what the person has done to you,” says Mr. Kalantar.Mr. Kalantar. “That might mean speaking to someone else and getting advice, approaching police, or seeking legal advice.” Evidence is critical to the legal process and is the cornerstone of how matters will ultimately be determined. “This can mean taking screenshots of your messages, printing out and putting together a
Victims of stalking may be reluctant to share their experiences with friends and family due to embarrassment, shame, or fear. However, it’s important to do so for emotional support and as a backup, should you decide to take. “Most people have never been through anything so frightening, and it is concerning to have someone who wishes to make you feel afraid,” he says. “This is even more frightening when that person is someone you know and was previously involved with.” Whether or not a stalking case holds up legally depends on its merits and factual circumstances. “Thankfully, there has been a shift in a societal context to understanding how stalkers operate and taking steps to protect vulnerable people from the action of stalkers.”